A federal judge in Tacoma recently granted $18,000 in damages as part of a settlement in a lawsuit against the City of Aberdeen, saying the money must be paid to three homeless advocates who sued the city in federal court over previous restrictions at the homeless encampment along the Chehalis River.
Rev. Sarah Monroe, who initiated the lawsuit, said all $12,000 of her share would go toward helping the homeless population in Aberdeen.
Businessman Tim Quigg, who is a homeless activist and brings supplies to the camps, and Apryl Boling, who has relatives living at the camps she visits often, were the other plaintiffs. Quigg and Boling each received $3,000 in the settlement and said that money will go to help the homeless.
Aberdeen Mayor Erik Larson said the majority of the settlement and legal fees granted to the plaintiffs would be covered by the city’s insurance.
In November, Monroe and two others sued the city, Larson, and City Engineer Kris Koski over a controversial permit system that required visitors to the major homeless encampment to get city authorization before entering the camps. The plaintiffs argued the system violated their First Amendment rights by not allowing Monroe, an Episcopal priest, to enter the encampment for emergency needs without a set schedule, and to provide pastor services.
At a hearing in Tacoma Dec. 12, U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton sided with the plaintiffs, saying the city’s permit system had to be changed and granting the three people access to the encampment. He directed both parties to work on a solution with different policies, such as time, manner and place restrictions to enter, which would replace the permit system.
The two sides came to an agreed solution and new policies, and the permit system has since been thrown out, and replaced with other rules including allowed entry hours between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.
The goal of the lawsuit was to reclaim access to the encampment for the three plaintiffs, which in turn led to the judge advising the city to throw out the permit system. But the suit also requested claims for damages and an award of attorney fees. Leighton’s ruling against the city included the settlement amount for damages, and the attorneys’ fees to be paid by the city. The claims against Larson and Koski were dismissed as part of the settlement judgment.
Quigg said the money would go to fix up the encampment following damage caused by major rainstorms in December, and placing the debris in the Dumpsters provided by the city. Quigg said Revival of Grays Harbor, a homeless assistance non-profit, is being paid for the work.
Boling said her money will go to supplies for the homeless and said it could come in handy May 1, the date written on paperwork issued to homeless people as the last day they’re authorized to be there.
Larson said that date just acknowledges how long they’re currently allowed to stay, and doesn’t preclude the city from changing the date. Larson said there will be more information in the near future about what the plans are for the encampment.